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Screen homage to Tony Benn gets Durham Cathedral showing

A film looking at the life of Tony Benn, one of the Durham miners' staunchest allies, is to be screened in the city

Stephen Kelly/PA Wire Veteran Labour politician Tony Benn
Veteran Labour politician Tony Benn

An award-winning film celebrating the life of the late Tony Benn is to be screened at Durham Cathedral on Thursday to raise funds for the Durham Miners’ Gala.

The veteran politician, who died in March, was a loyal supporter of the Durham miners and attended their gala celebration for decades, having given his first gala address in 1962.

Director Skip Kite said: “We wanted to screen the film in Durham Cathedral because it played such an important part in Tony’s life.

“The film even includes footage of Tony processing through the cathedral on one of those famous gala days.”

The film, Tony Benn: Will And Testament, takes an in-depth look at the personal and political life of the UK’s longest-serving Labour MP.

It includes candid interviews, personal video and photo collections from the Benn family and footage from ITN’s archives.

The Dean of Durham, the Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, said: “The cathedral is delighted to host the screening knowing that it is in aid of an occasion that would have been very close to Tony Benn’s heart.

 “I fondly recall Tony Benn giving a sermon in the cathedral in July 2003. He spoke about how much the Labour movement owed to the prophets of the Old Testament.

 “It was met with a rousing round of applause, a rare plaudit indeed as far as cathedral sermons go.”

Tony Benn with the Blackhall Lodge banner
Tony Benn with the Blackhall Lodge banner
 

 The documentary, filmed over two and a half years between 2011 and 2013, follows Tony Benn all over the UK from Glasgow to Devon.

 Mr Kite said: “Tony was very much one of the team – he carried bags; he made tea. There was nothing he liked more than offering his help.”

 He said he hoped his film would transcend politics and appeal to a wide audience.

 “I wanted to make a film that would connect to everyone regardless of their race, religion or political backgrounds. It’s about life, loss and love –the great themes of life we can all relate to.

 “I wanted it to connect to people on a human level and allow Tony to talk directly to the audience.”

A panel discussion and question and answer session will follow the screening of the documentary, which won the Audience Award at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Dave Hopper, general secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, said: “Tony was a tremendous friend and supporter of the miners who devoted his life to the service of the people. He never ever let us down when we needed him.”

Alan Cumming, chairman of the Durham Miners’ Association, added: “His left-wing beliefs and policies never dimmed - he shone a light within the trade union movement. I’m really proud it’s going to be shown.”

To buy tickets, call the Gala Theatre on 03000 266600.

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